LOS BANOS, CA - Jose Rodriguez of Los Banos said a photograph in his wallet, his ability to stay calm and God, all helped him escape death on Monday afternoon. He's the sole survivor in a murder spree allegedly involving 32-year-old Sacramento man Abe Felmley.
Rodriguez was fishing in an irrigation canal in Los Banos, in Merced County, just east of Interstate 5.
The suspect pulled up to Rodriguez in a white truck, the same truck stolen from a home torched in south Sacramento that earlier on Monday.
Authorities confirmed the suspect's grandfather and uncle, Chesley Felmley and Dennis Felmley died in that fire. Sacramento County Sheriff's deputies said Felmley drove from south Sacramento down to Los Banos where he saw Rodriguez standing alone.
"This guy looked a little weird to me and when I looked back, I had seen him approaching me with a gun," Rodriguez said. "He asked me for my wallet. He took it from me. He took my credit card."
Then, Felmley demanded Rodriguez turn over his cell phone, threw it on the ground and smashed it.
"I believe he didn't want me to call police," Rodriguez explained.
Felmley told Rodriguez to walk along the canal. He pointed a gun at Rodriguez and drove along inside Rodriguez's green Toyota Camry.
Rodriguez tried to remain calm and not show any fear.
"I knew from his look in his face, he was going to kill me. He just had that look," said Rodriguez. "Right when I was walking over here, that's when I started saying my prayers."
Rodriguez believes a picture inside his wallet helped convince Felmley to spare his life - a picture of Rodriguez's two nieces.
"He said that, 'you have a family. If not, I would have killed you right now,'" Rodriguez said.
Felmley then took off. Only later did Rodriguez learn that Felmley had driven on to Huntington Beach where police said he killed Huntington Beach resident Robert Andres Duran before turning the gun on himself.
On Wednesday night, Rodriguez's sister Maria Montilla is thanking their lucky stars.
"It's insane, we're still in shock," Montilla said. "He's very lucky. I think he definitely has angels with him."
Rodriguez said he can't wait to see his family and give them a big hug. He's also grateful to the driver who stopped and helped Rodriguez call 911. He said that man happened to be a pastor from Sacramento.
By Suzanne Phan, firstname.lastname@example.org